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Apr 25, 2004 5:57 pm


Noted Here and There ...



Charles Burress looks at the evidence in a debate which takes center stage at the University of California, Berkeley, this weekend over whether J. Robert Oppenheimer was a secret member of the Communist Party. Gregg Harkenn of UC, Merced, cites new evidence that Oppenheimer did belong to a secret cell of the Party. Martin Sherwin of Tufts, who is about to publish a biography of Oppenheimer with Kai Bird, believes the new evidence is not convincing. Stanford's Barton Bernstein and Yale's Daniel Kevles join in the discussion, which appears to be a fascinating exercise in assessing the ambiguities of evidence. Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the tip.

Last weekend, I mentioned the appearance of David Horowitz at Emory University after he and campus Republicans had loudly declaimed about maneuvers to prevent his and their exercise of free speech at the University. Creative Loafing, Atlanta's alternative newspaper, publishes an account of the event this week. Its story of a Young Republican's effort to intimidate another student who asked Horowitz a question puts a different light on the devotion of campus conservatives to free speech. Thanks to Emory's Andrew Ackerman for the tip.

Over at Liberty & Power, Clemson's Robert Campbell has a helpful update on developments at the University of Southern Mississippi on President Shelby Thames's summary dismissal of tenured professors Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer.

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Ralph E. Luker - 4/25/2004

Thanks very much for the link, Jerry. I'm inclined to agree with you and Bernstein.


Jerry Sternstein - 4/25/2004

Gregg Herken has a site where one can parse the new evidence about whether Oppenheimer was a member of the Communist Party. According to my reading, it's not conclusive but it certainly is suggestive. Combined with what Herken uncovered and published earlier on the subject, I think Barton Bernstein is correct when he states that the weight of the evidence indicates that Oppenheimer probably was a party member, at least in the thirties, something he always denied. See this link: http://www.brotherhoodofthebomb.com


Ralph E. Luker - 4/24/2004

Thanks for this, Richard. On #2, I was there. It was a Young Republican. People doing intimidating often don't fully understand that's what they're doing and that it violates all the values they've been appealing to until they're called on it and, then, of course, they deny it. I agree that it has been done at both ends of the spectrum.


Richard Henry Morgan - 4/24/2004

I find it interesting that Chevalier's wife said Oppie was a member of the CP, and Haakon himself didn't really deny it. People so often fail to understand the relationship between having a clearance and being a "security risk". Oppie was never accused (as far as I know) of being disloyal, nor convicted, nor either on the topic of CP membership. People tend to view a clearance as a right -- it's really a privilege. Oppie violated rules that made him a risk, and he lost his clearance. Certainly people opposed him because of his views, but he handed them the knife. Membership in the CP was certainly sufficient to lose a clearance, but not necessary.


Richard Henry Morgan - 4/24/2004

1. Oppenheimer, in violation of insructions and rules that he had been well-briefed on, continued to associate with Communists like Chevalier, and failed to report his contacts with them -- he even failed to report that Chevalier had pitched him to spy for the Soviet Union. Were we not "allied" with the Soviet Union during the war, Oppie would never have received a security clearance, and he lost his based on the testimony of the head of the ACC, not Teller, and based on the fact that we were no longer allied with the Soviet Union. After losing his clearance, Oppie pitched ideas for chemical WMD's to the federal government. All in all, though, the Oppie stuff is rather interesting.

2. It's not entirely clear just how the author of the Atlanta article came to identify the miscreant as a Young Republican. That is not to say that there aren't right-wing brownshirts at Emory -- to go along with the left-wing variety.

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